Dear Father Angelo,
I am a diocesan priest.
I kindly ask you for clarification regarding the intimate and substantial relationship between orthodoxy and orthopraxis. The doctrine of the Church regulates and shapes the moral and ecclesial action of the faithful. Each element of the deposit of faith (lex credendi) is joined together to the rule of prayer and the liturgical celebration of the Church (lex orandi), and therefore to the life of the faithful (lex vivendi). Every aspect of the doctrine, above all the dogmas of the Catholic faith, have a strong connection with our lives, driving moral and ecclesial actions. Sadly, I hear more and more often (even from members of the clergy) that some of the dogmas, such as the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in particular post partum, are not relevant to our Christian life. In other words: even assuming that Mary had other children after Jesus, this would not have affected God’s saving plan, and therefore our lives as Christians. I know that the doctrine is hierarchically organized, and some aspects of it are more important than others; nevertheless, I believe that there are not irrelevant parts of it. Not at all! Sadly, even in seminaries nowadays Doctrine’s errors like this one are taught.
I hope I have explained myself sufficiently and, asking you to pray for me, I assure you of mine prayers while I thank you for this very useful ministry service.
Dear Don G.,
1. The term orthopraxis (which etymologically means “right conduct”) is ambiguous.
In fact, in the past decades it has been used by some theologians to say that the most important thing is right conduct.
The problem is that, when referring to “right conduct”, they did not mean the conformity of behavior to orthodoxy, that is, to the truth of the faith, but to the political commitment one assumed, with particular reference to liberation theology.
In this case the orthopraxis would consist of “a certain type of practice” as critically underlined the document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Libertatis nuntius. Under this light, orthopraxis should be intended as a “revolutionary practice” that “would have become the supreme criterion of theological truth” (Ib., X, 3).
It is clear that you do not give to the term orthopraxis this meaning, but instead you correctly intend it as a code of behavior that is enlightened and guided by faith.
2. Now, it must be remembered that all the truths of faith taught by the Church are not purely theoretical truths, but are saving truths.
This means that they intend to communicate something to the Christian life.
None of these truths are useless.
Every word spoken by Jesus is a word of eternal life. Every word spoken by Jesus must be lived, because it communicates something important and precious.
3. As you rightly noticed, there is a hierarchy among the truths of faith.
The Catechism of Saint Pius X wonders: “What are the principal mysteries of the faith?”.
With the caption “principal mysteries” he highlighted the central nucleus of our faith.
Other truths are less central, some are even peripheral, but none of them are useless.
All that God has revealed to us is useful for our salvation.
Despising just one of the truths of faith is harmful to our spiritual life just as the lack of some useful element for the body is harmful to our body as a whole.4. It is not necessary for all faithful to have explicit knowledge of the usefulness of all the truths of faith, including the ones that are considered less important.
It is sufficient that all the truths of faith are accepted in the disposition of the soul.
However, just as it would be bad if a doctor did not know what all the values of the blood refer to, in the same way it would be bad if the pastors, that is the priests, who by vocation and mission are masters in the faith and in the Christian life, did not know the salvific meaning of the truths of faith.
Especially since they are called to communicate them to the faithful.
5. Coming now to the salvific meaning of the virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it must be said that it is intimately connected with virginity before childbirth and during childbirth.
Virginity before childbirth refers to the incarnation of God in our soul.
Virginity during childbirth refers to the personal presence of the risen and glorious Jesus in our hearts. In fact, according to some authors, Jesus would have anticipated in the childbirth of the Virgin that glorious condition that he showed to three Apostles on the Mount of the Transfiguration. St. Thomas suggests that the childbirth took place as a further advance of what happened in the transfiguration because he says that this childbirth took place as the ray of light which, while passing through the glass, does not break it but illuminates it.
Virginity after childbirth is kept by Our Lady as a sign of gratitude for what God had worked in her: “The Mother of God would have proved supremely ungrateful to be unsatisfied with such a great Son and to spontaneously lose virginity through marital relations, which a miracle had preserved it to her” (Sum theological, III, 28, 3).
For our Christian life, after having received the presence of God in our soul, wouldn’t it be a manifestation of supreme ingratitude to prefer something else to Him, perhaps a plate of lentils?
6. Yes, we can and must also desire other things, but always with reference to God and to guard the most precious gift we have received.
We must not desire anything less than God.
All that we desire lower than Him we must desire in view of Him, ut Deo uniamur, as Saint Thomas says, to be united with God (Sum theological, II-II, 83, 1, ad 2).
Thus the ever Virgin Mary teaches us to live, especially in her postpartum virginity.
Thank you, dear Don G., for giving me the opportunity to say these things.
I wish you all the best in your ministry and assure you of my prayers for its fruitfulness.